The “Nationality” of the Company: Historical Approaches to a Possible Paradox

The “Nationality” of the Company: Historical Approaches to a Possible Paradox

PD Dr. Boris Gehlen, Dr. Christian Marx, Prof. Dr. Alfred Reckendrees, Prof. Dr. Werner Plumpe; organized in cooperation with Arbeitskreis für Kritische und Unternehmens- und Industriegeschichte and Lehrstuhl für Wirtschafts- und Sozialgeschichte, Frankfurt am Main
Goethe University, Campus Westend, Casino, Room: Cas 1.801 (Renate von Metzler-Saal)
Frankfurt am Main
Vom - Bis
17.11.2017 - 18.11.2017
Boris Gehlen

The relationship between nation states and the companies based in their respective territories is often ambiguous. Companies provide employment and they pay taxes, they contribute to national income and frequently to “national identity” (Disney, Dior, Daimler). Companies and businessmen engage in bilateral and international diplomacy, e.g. as door-openers for new relationships of the West to the Soviet Union in the 1950s or to China in the late 1970s. At other times, companies supported national policies of war and crimes against humanity.

The histories of Chrysler, Krupp, or Rolls-Royce – to name just a few examples – provide abundant evidence of embeddedness and dependence on state capacity. Time and again, even companies describing themselves as multi- or transnational seem to appreciate the security net of a nation state with its government and constituency of taxpayers, who act as lenders of last resort. In times of financial crisis there is no dearth of companies that claim to be citizens of a nation state for the sake of access to the respective state’s resources. At the same time the modern state has developed towards a ‘competition state’ acting like a company in a market of countries vying for investments. Nation states brand themselves; they try to attract customers and to service international markets.

The question of companies and their nationality opens the discussion about how companies relate to society and the nation state, and vice versa. What nationality (if it has one) does a company have and how can it be conceived? The conference - generously funded by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung - discusses this question and its implications historically from several perspectives, including perceptions and construction of nationality, the strategic dimension of nationality, nationality in international companies and international mergers, companies in (post)colonial settings and economic nationalism.

Due to limited room capacity an informal registration is required: (Deadline: October 31st 2017).

Funded by: Fritz Thyssen Stiftung


Friday, November 17th 2017

9.00–9.30 a.m.
Get together

9.30–10.00 a.m.
Welcome address (Werner Plumpe, Frankfurt a.M., and Boris Gehlen, Bonn)
Introduction: The „Nationality“ of the Company: Historical Approaches to a Possible Paradox (Alfred Reckendrees, Copenhagen)

10.00–12.00 a.m.
Beyond ‘economic nationalism’: reflections on the nationalism/economy nexus and implications for studying the ‘nationality’ of companies (Stefan Berger, Bochum, and Peter Fetzer, Budapest)
The Corporate Nationality: A Question of Culture and Community? (Eric Godelier, Paris)
Creating a national identity? The issue of nationality in the energy-intensive industries in Norway, 1890–1940 (Pål Thonstad Sandvik and Espen Storli, Trondheim)

1.00–3.00 p.m.
Exporting national narratives: Historically rooted corporate narratives and Danish manufacturing in China (Kristoffer Jensen and Anders Ravn Sørensen, Copenhagen)
Nationalisation and firm identity evolution in socialism: The case of Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau in the GDR and beyond, 1945–1996 (Katrin Schreiter (with Davide Ravasi), London)
Capitalist Nationalism and Zionist Nation-Building in British-Ruled Palestine (David De Vries, Tel Aviv)

3.30–4.45 p.m.
The paradox of the nationality of capital in a colonial context: economic na-tionalism and foreign investment in Angola (1920–1974) (Pedro Neves and Álvaro Ferreira da Silva, Lisbon)
Nationality and domicile in international business: evidence from "British" overseas firms (Simon Mollan, Kevin Tennent, and Billy Frank, York)

5.00–6.15 p.m.
The Firestone Case. American Management vs. Swiss Labor Peace? (Sabine Pitteloud, Geneva)
The impact of nationality on corporate governance: The case of the Dutch-German AKU/VGF/Akzo, 1920s to 1970s (Christian Marx, Trier, and Ben Wubs, Rotterdam)

Saturday, November 18th 2017

9.00–10.20 a.m.
The Importance of Being European: Airbus and the West German Aircraft In-dustry, 1960s to 1980s (Ralf Ahrens, Potsdam)
The Role of “Nationalism” and “Internationalism” in the Recruitment of Man-agers in German Companies, 1950s to 1980s (Stina Barrenscheen, Marburg)

10.40–12.00 a.m.
Nationality as a determinant of success for Belgian multinational entrepreneurs in a global economy: The case of Edouard Empain (1880–1914) (Tobit Vandamme, Ghent)
Nations as brands and brand communities as nation (Mads Mordhorst, Copenhagen)

1.00–2.20 p.m.
Shades of Foreignness: German and British Commercial Rivalry in Colonial India (1890s to 1940s) (Christina Lubinski, Copenhagen)
Loosing, repairing and maintaining organizational legitimacy: The move towards polycentric organization in British multinationals in Ghana and Nigeria 1945–1970 (Stephanie Decker, Birmingham)

2.40–4.00 p.m.
Buy-national campaigns. Harnessing national sentiment on behalf of profits and the common good (Oliver Kühschelm, Vienna)
The Nationality of an Industry: “Swiss Made” law and global competition in the watch business since 1970 (Pierre-Yves Donzé, Osaka)

4.00–4.30 p.m.
Concluding remarks and concluding discussion (Boris Gehlen, Bonn)

4.30 p.m.
End of Conference


Boris Gehlen

Institut für Geschichtswissenschaft, Abt. VSWG
Konviktstr. 11, 53113 Bonn

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